"Edson’s vivid portrayal of the urban area, as well as the working class and underclass, creates a vision of Saint John that highlights the discrepancy between the pre-modern idyllic notion of life in Atlantic Canada and the more complicated reality of the region."

-The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ottawa's Matthew Firth has been referred to as Canada's Charles Bukowksi--putting some lofty expectations on him every time he sits down to write. With the release of his short story collection Shag Carpet Action (Anvil Press), Firth lives up to the billing. I'm a big Bukowksi fan so I'm always hesitant to ever make that comparison (and I'm sure Firth would also agree that Hank is incomparable). Bukowski has many imitators who try to throw in some over-the-top perversity or crudeness meant only for shock-value. Firth, on the other hand, makes no such attempt--he simply writes what he wants to write, shocking or not. There's no phoniness to his work. Shag Carpet Action sucks you in from the beginning, literally. Tatiana masturbates with a Spider-Man action figure, and her voyeuristic neighbour enjoys it too. Another story takes you inside Firth's own experience getting a vasectomy. "Three Women on the Bus" reads more like a script, in the tune of Hemingway's "Today is Friday". Essentially, Firth's writing implies a universal truth most writers don't have the balls to say: That everybody's shit stinks. And he does it with considerable humour. There are moments in this collection that will have you laughing out loud.

So for those who are too skittish to step into Firth's world, I have just one thing to say: GET OVER YOURSELVES--it's the world we all live in. Firth's stories remind us of the realities of being human; what we think, feel, and do. The writing is easy to read, raw-to-the-bone honest, and refreshingly real. And that's why I highly recommend you forget about your clean-cut CanLit filler and get your knees dirty with something a little more to the floor--Shag Carpet Action.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Beauty and the Greatness of David Adams Richards

An amazing night last night at the Westdale United Church in Hamilton where I saw David Adams Richards give a public address on "Beauty and Human Greatness" from his book God Is. Richards spoke about the meaning of beauty and greatness, while saying that beauty did not come in spite of evil in the world, but because of it. It was a powerful and moving reading. I spoke with him beforehand and we chatted about a few things (I hadn't seen him since 2005).

I met briefly with him afterwards as well and got a nice picture with him (above, taken by my good friend Clive). He is such an amazing man--one of the best writers alive today but as humble and as down-to-earth as anyone you could ever meet. He makes me so proud to be a Maritimer. His message was about greatness and goodness, and he personifies both. In an age where some writers walk around thinking they're above others because they once won a prize, here is a man who has won everything and still stays the same. He's a genius in the truest sense of the word; under-appreciated in his own lifetime, but nonetheless miles above every other writer around him.

The world will be talking about Richards for as long as humanity has literary discussions, and I think it's about time he should be seriously considered for, in the words of Hemingway, "the Swedish thing"...(You can bet if he'd written about Toronto his whole life instead of small-town New Brunswick there'd be a weekly column in the Globe and Mail calling for it.)

Photos by Clive Baugh

Friday, November 4, 2011

More praise for THE GOON...

"I found it compelling. Jack comes across beautifully; you don't waste a word; there's tons of atmosphere; nicely drawn tensions and conflict. Best of all you evoke the inner life, of Jack especially, and in fact portray the community in general without any strain whatsoever, by just keeping the narrative moving along."

--Tom Henighan, whose sixth YA novel, The Boy From Left Field, comes out with Dundurn this winter.

In 1999 I was lucky enough to have studied creative writing under Tom at Carleton, and it's no coincidence that within a year my first book was published.